Home / Tattoos / Maori tattoos / History and meaning of Maori tattoos

History and meaning of Maori tattoos

The Maori is a population of Polynesian descent, who settled in New Zealand around 900 AD. The name means “normal”, in contrast to the “invaders” British people as defined by the Pakeha.

The tattoo, in Maori culture, played a very important meaning. In fact, it served as a means of social communication.

Maori society was highly stratified and the tattoo was used to indicate with precision the caste of each. In the tattoo was also identified maternal and paternal origin, occupation, or even the achievement of an higher rank than that of birth.

The warriors used tattoos with pride, to tell their deeds and their history. Furthermore, with the tattoo showed the muscles to look stronger in front of the enemy.

The tattoo also had an aesthetic function, that is used as a form of embellishment of the person, a bit like the trick used nowadays. A woman who had not in fact signs tattooed around her lips was not considered attractive.

maori mask tattoo

The tattoo more representative of this culture was the “moko“, which was used as a sign of passage from adolescence to adulthood. In moko the face was covered with complex reasons from the root of the hair to chin and from ear to ear. In the so called “rape” tattoo, however, were also tattooed the abdomen and legs from the thighs to the knees. The “kirituhi” is rather more decorative representation even if full of meanings related to fern “koru” as a symbol of spiritual rebirth.

The tattoo was done only to holy men or people officially recognized as “Tohunga ta Moko“, as tattoo artist. They studied the facial structure of the tattooed future, and then they identified a picture. The elders of the clan had to decide if the proposed sign meets the individual’s personality.

The two main techniques used for tattoos were the “puhoro” and the “moko whakairo“. The first consisted of puncturing the skin with a sharp instrument and inserting in the punctures a pigment that left the trace of the design under the skin. The “moko whakairo”, however, was done with chisels and other sharp instruments that “carving” the skin: wounds were then filled with colour and the pattern, once healed skin, was made more evident by raised scars.

Lascia un commento